Most meaningful use of the SDGs
FTSE 250-listed IP Group is a leading intellectual property commercialisation company, which focuses on evolving great ideas, especially from its partner universities, into world-changing businesses, with a special interest in life sciences, cleantech and technology.
It has pioneered a unique approach to developing these ideas by providing access to business building expertise, capital, networks, recruitment and other support.
Currently, IP Group has a portfolio comprising 43 holdings valued at £1.2 billion. With sustainability and responsible investment at the heart of its approach, in 2020 IP Group carried out an ESG materiality assessment to identify the risks and opportunities that mattered most to its stakeholders.
It also aligned its portfolio with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which represent the blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. But it was keen not to ‘rainbow wash’ or shoehorn a sector or company into alignment. The SDGs are underpinned by 169 targets and 232 indicators.
IP Group considered which ones were particularly pertinent to its portfolio, and established that, while its holdings all currently influence the 17 SDGs, there is a concentration around the six most relevant to the business:
- Good health and well-being
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation, and communities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Climate action.
IP Group believes the underlying targets are vital to measuring progress and showing the real impact of the company. In its annual report, IP Group provides detailed information on how its portfolio companies, including its top 200 investments, align with certain relevant SDGs and which underlying targets prove most relevant. For example, it highlighted eight companies in its cleantech holdings that specifically align with the two goals of affordable and clean energy and climate action, while then listing seven targets related to these goals against which IP Group can measure its progress.
A series of case studies also bring to life a selection of companies and their products, demonstrating their real-world impact, such as cleantech investment Mixergy, which has developed a hot water tank that only heats what is needed, thereby saving energy and running costs.
While accepting that reporting on SDGs in a tangible and quantitative manner is still a nascent area, IG Group believes it has created a blueprint to develop this communication tool. Its approach has been both welcomed and commended by its stakeholders. In the future, IG Group hopes to provide robust and relevant data aligned with the SDGs and to build on its collection of case studies, to share the stories behind the numbers.